From actor to world hero, who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy?
The 44-year-old president, a former comedian, has used his acting experience to gather the world around him.
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In the past few days, the figure of Ukraine's president has become central. Volodymyr Zelenskyy's name, unknown to most, is now one of the most searched for on Google. It's no coincidence, as the man has the lives of all Ukrainians on his shoulders amid the country's Russian invasion.
Zelenskyy's appearances on social media and in speeches, like the one he gave before European Parliament on Tuesday, March 1, have made him a symbol of resistance. His clear language and image of an "ordinary citizen" are perfect for bringing together millions of people for Ukraine on a global scale.
"We are fighting for the freedom you have," "I started a phone conversation with the president of the Russian Federation. Result: silence," "I stay in the capital, my family is also in Ukraine, my children are in Ukraine. My family are not traitors, they are citizens of Ukraine," have been some of the most touching phrases from the president, who also perfectly managed the rhetoric of images and social media.
⚡️Zelensky posts another video filmed in central Kyiv.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) February 26, 2022
"There's a lot of fake information online that I call on our army to lay down arms, and that there's evacuation," he said.
"I'm here. We won't lay down our arms. We will defend our state." pic.twitter.com/VKVY4XRUip
In his speech before the invasion, he was seen wearing a suit and tie, but once the combat began, he changed to a green military shirt, typical of the soldiers' camouflage, and has remained unchanged until now to both record videos in the streets with his cell phone, or to address the international community.
The Ukrainian president has had an atypical career, at only 44 years old, he won the presidency in 2019, amid a political campaign overshadowed by corruption scandals. Up to that point, Zelenskyy was a successful actor and comedian, having won the Ukrainian version of Dancing with the Stars in 2006, and taking part in several comedy shows.
His last TV role ended up being a premonition of the next stage his life would enter. Zelensky starred in the series Servant of the People, where he played a teacher who gives an impassioned anti-corruption speech that goes viral. It strikes a nerve in the populous and his character Vasyl Holoborodko ends up running for and winning the presidency.
⚡️Ukraine’s Zelensky posts a new video of himself and his team outside the presidential administration in Kyiv’s government quarter after rumors in Russian media that he’d fled. “We are here. We are in Kyiv. We are defending Ukraine.” pic.twitter.com/bgHyrsbVFs— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) February 25, 2022
Thanks to his popularity, Zelenskyy made the leap into politics and became president with 72% of the vote when he actually ran
Once in office, despite launching innovative policies, his lack of experience, unpopular measures and some suspicions of corruption were causing his popularity to wane until the war came.
Now, the president has become a hero, and has taken advantage of his knowledge and ability to manage the media and his image to create a discourse of resistance around him. His emotionally loaded interventions have managed to unify the country and a large part of the world around him.
"We desire to see our children alive. I think it's a fair one."— CNN (@CNN) March 1, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was met with a standing ovation from the European Parliament after a powerful speech that caused the EU translator on the English language feed to choke up with emotion. pic.twitter.com/kTlBGO6GEq
For experts and analysts, Putin's attack made Zelenskyy out to be easy prey. What he did not count on was Zelenskyy's ability to turn rhetoric around and take advantage of that "weakness" and "humanity" in his favor in the face of Russian hardness and power.